At Monday's briefing, WH deputy press secretary announced that the president spoke to James Shaw, the Waffle House patron who stopped an active shooter with his bare hands last month, discussed the controversy surrounding a staffer who mocked Sen. John McCain, and more.
RAJ SHAH: I'm also announcing today that next Tuesday, May 22nd, the President will address the Susan B. Anthony List's 11th Annual Campaign for Life Gala at the National Building Museum.
Where he will discuss the many actions he has taken to protect the lives of the unborn and defend religious liberty. This morning, the President had a call with James Shaw Jr. to commend his heroic actions and quick thinking last month at a Waffle House in Tennessee.
Mr. Shaw saved lives when he wrestled a gun from an active shooter who had opened fire. Lastly over the weekend we sadly saw another terrorist attack in central Paris. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.
We stand in solidarity with the French people and their government against this vicious act of terrorism and pledge any assistance needed. With that, I'll take your questions. John (ph)?
QUESTION: Raj, a couple if I could. At the same time, there was the celebratory air in Jerusalem as the U.S. was moving its embassy. In the south of Israel along the border with Gaza, there was a lot of violence that resulted in more than 41 people losing their lives.
Is the President concerned about the demonstrations there and Israel's response to people trying to climb over the fence?
SHAH: Well we're aware of the reports of continued violence in Gaza today. The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas. Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response. And as the Secretary of State said, Israel has the right to defend itself.
QUESTION: Also, what's the President's thinking on -- on ZTE? I mean here is a company that violated U.S. rules regarding doing business with North Korea and Iran. It was, according to the Congress (ph) department appropriately sanctioned for that, fined $1.2 billion.
You have the heads of six intelligence agencies telling Congress back on February 13th that they wouldn't use ZTE devices, because of counter-espionage concerns. They also wouldn't recommend that American citizens use ZTE or Huawei devices.
So what's the President's thinking with that tweet over the weekend about wanting to rescue ZTE?
SHAH: Obviously this is part of a very complex relationship between the United States and China that involves economic issues, national security issues, and the like. It's an issue of high concern for China that's been raised with the U.S. -- with the U.S. government and with our administration at various levels.
So the President has asked Secretary Ross to look into it, consistent with applicable laws and regulations. Rob (ph)?
QUESTION: I guess I wanted to follow up on that. Did the President give Secretary Ross any specific instructions on how he wanted that kit (ph) to go? And when you say that it was raised, I assume you mean in the context of the ongoing trade discussions between the U.S. and China.
So is there a sort of direct linkage there, where China could make a concession on, you know, retaliatory tariffs? And so we'd see from the U.S. kind of easing back on -- on ZTE.
SHAH: Well he's asked Secretary Ross to look into the matter, again consistent with applicable laws and regulations. And it's been brought up at a number of levels, you know, as part of bilateral talks on a number of issues.
I wouldn't restrict it to just the talks that you're referencing.
QUESTION: A follow on that, Raj?
QUESTION: Didn't the Commerce Department make an independent judgment when they decided to issue this sanction against ZTE? So can you talk about the significance of bringing it up again now? How much does it have to do with the impending summit with North Korea?
You know critics will say that the President wants China's support, needs China's support, and that is why he is now backing off on this sanction against ZTE.
SHAH: It's part of again the U.S. relationship with China, which is complex. It has economic factors, it has national security factors. This is just one of many factors, and again the President is asking Secretary of -- the Secretary of Commerce to look into the matter consistent with laws and regulation.
QUESTION: My second question, Raj.
SHAH: Yeah. Cecilia (ph)?
QUESTION: Thanks. Senator Lindsey Graham said I wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that what Kelly Sadler said was inappropriate, that that's not who we are as a Trump administration. Why not just apologize so America doesn't think that that is an acceptable way of speaking inside this White House?
SHAH: Well I understand the focus on this issue, but it's going to be dealt with and has been dealt with internally. You know, I was told ...
SHAH: Hang on. I was told Kelly Sadler told the McCain family late last week and did apologize. And beyond that, I don't have further comments.
QUESTION: But why would she -- excuse me, but she -- she -- Kelly Sadler told Meghan McCain that she would apologize publicly. And that has not yet happened. Why has that not happened?
SHAH: Well I wasn't on the call. I was told she made it prior to the story being published. She apologized for the comment, she apologized directly to the family.
QUESTION: Are there any -- are there any concerns that this White House seems more concerned about the fact that there was a leak than about the content of what was said?
SHAH: Well I think, you know, we're concerned about all sorts of matters. But this is an internal matter. It's being addressed internally and I don't have anything further to add.
QUESTION: Can you explain how it's being addressed internally?
SHAH: Obviously if I explain all that, then it won't remain internal.
QUESTION: Is she still an employee here at the White House?
SHAH: She is still an employee here at the White House, she came to work today.
QUESTION: Why hasn't she publicly apologized as she told Meg McCain that she would?
SHAH: She has -- she has addressed it with the family directly, and I don't have anything further to add.
QUESTION: OK, really quick Raj on ZTE. How does the President Trump statement that too many Chinese jobs are at risk square with his campaign promise that China is stealing American jobs?
SHAH: Well I don't think this has frankly any bearing on the President's campaign promises. Let's just look at the overall economic record, right? The President has overseen an economy in which we have the lowest unemployment rate since 2000, right?
It's at 3.9 percent, over two million jobs have been created since this President took office. And on -- with respect to trade with China, he's been tough. Let's put this into context. I mean this President has taken China to task for its unfair trade practices through this Section 301 investigation.
He's introduced and proposed over -- or rather up to $150 billion of tariffs on China for intellectual property -- property theft, dumping in a range of you know inimical Chinese economic action. So he's been tough and he's confronted them.
But on this issue specifically, he's asked the Secretary of Commerce to take a look at it. Steve (ph)?
QUESTION: Raj, the death toll is over 50 in Gaza. Is U.S. calling on Israel to use restraint in league (ph) with these protests?
SHAH: Well we believe that you know Hamas is responsible for these -- for these tragic deaths, that their rather cynical exploitation of the situation, it is what -- is what's leading to these deaths and we want them to stop.
QUESTION: So there's no burden on Israel to do something to sort of rein it in?
SHAH: No, we -- we think that we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Hamas is the one that frankly bear responsibility for the dire situation right now in Gaza.
QUESTION: And lastly Raj, how does this -- United States has been wanting to put out a peace plan. How does today's situation hurt that? SHAH: I don't think it hurts the - the peace plan. The peace plan will be introduced at the appropriate time, but what today is about is following through on what the President promised and believes. And it's also a recognition of reality.
I think we've for decades you know walked on eggshells, pretending that Jerusalem isn't the capital of Israel when it obviously is. And this is just a recognition of reality. David (ph)?
QUESTION: Raj? Yes there seems to be some confusion given the messages over the - on Sunday news shows from Secretary Pompeo and National Security Advisor Bolton, about what exactly the U.S. is asking of North Korea.
Is the administration's position that the U.S. expects the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the peninsula of North Korea, or is the administration willing to accept -- accept something short of that?
SHAH: I don't want to get ahead of negotiations, but our policy has been to pursue the complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that's going to be the -- the purpose of the G20...
QUESTION: How (inaudible)...
QUESTION: ... if you could address a little bit, this (ph), like (ph), that -- criticism of the president's sort of tone, with the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, saying that he treated the U.S. detainees excellently.
The president's rhetoric has certainly shifted on -- on Kim Jong Un, and I'm wondering if -- if you could explain why, and whether he thinks that, at all, he is going too far and (ph) sort of praising Kim Jong Un?
SHAH: Well, I think the president's rhetoric has reflected Kim Jong Un's actions. I think that Kim Jong Un has stepped forward and made pledges to halt nuclear tests, halt ICBM tests, and now has released these three prisoners. And those are signs of good faith, and we hope to build on that.
QUESTION: If I can, very quickly, the French foreign minister (inaudible) said, about what's taking place in Gaza, he urged Israeli authorities to exercise discretion and restraint.
So to be clear, does the U.S. not agree with the French, that Israeli authorities should exercise discretion and restraint?
SHAH: We believe that Hamas is responsible for what's going on.
QUESTION: So there's no responsibility beyond that on the Israeli authorities? Kill at will?
SHAH: What -- what I'm saying is that we believe that Hamas, as an organization, is engaged in cynical action that's leading to these deaths.
QUESTION: Let me ask you, if I can, then, following up on Kelly Sadler today. Matt Schlapp, whose wife you know, Mercedes Schlapp, works here...
QUESTION: ... is the head of Strategic Communications. Portrayed Kelly Sadler as a little bit of a victim here. Do you agree that she's a little bit of a victim here, and why?
SHAH: Well, again, the matter is going to be addressed -- has been addressed internally. But what I will say is that when you work in any work environment, you with your colleagues at -- at NBC or elsewhere, if you don't -- if you aren't able, in internal meetings, to speak your mind or -- or convey thoughts or say anything that you feel without feeling like your colleagues will betray you, that creates a very difficult work environment.
SHAH: I think anybody who works anywhere could recognize that.
QUESTION: Is there any environment where that, conveying that thought, would be viewed as appropriate?
SHAH: Again, I'm not going to address it any further. It's been...
QUESTION: So to be clear, was it completed last week? You said it was -- was dealt with internally. Has anything been dealt with since last week when she called the family, the McCain family, for clarity?
SHAH: She -- she called the McCain family. I'm not going to address it any more from the podium.
QUESTION: Raj, if I might ask you an indelicate question, it's been reported that you were leading the meeting where Kelly Sadler said what she said. How did it strike you? Did you find it to be inappropriate, and how did -- what was the reaction in the room?
SHAH: Look, this is not about my opinion or anybody else's opinion. It's an internal matter, and we're -- we've addressed it internally.
SHAH: Anita (ph)?
QUESTION: Two questions. First, the White House is hosting some kind of meeting on Wednesday with California officials on sanctuary cities. Can you tell us what that's about? Will the president attend, and what's the -- what's the point of the meeting?
SHAH: Well, I can't, obviously, get ahead of the meeting, but, look, the Department of Justice is engaged in certain litigation regarding sanctuary cities in California.
We believe that California should help us, and all municipalities and states, should help the -- the federal government enforcing federal law, in (ph) helping to deport, when appropriate, criminal illegal immigrants.
And, you know, help, I guess, stem the tide of, you know, illegal immigration in the United States. It's actually on the rise, now, it's a point of frustration for the president and for the administration. So that'll be part of, obviously, what's discussed.
QUESTION: So there's no negotiation. This is just to solidify your point? I think the...
SHAH: I'm saying that I'm not going to get ahead of the meeting.
QUESTION: OK, and my second question is, the president's going to Capitol Hill tomorrow to meet with Senate Republicans. Can you tell us about that meeting, and do you -- the topic of the conversation, and also, do you think he will not get asked by senators about the Kelly -- Kelly Sadler issue?
SHAH: Well, obviously, you'll have to ask senators what they'll ask him.
QUESTION: Does he (inaudible) been prepared?
SHAH: But I -- I -- I think he will be discussing the administration's agenda. I think a focus of that will be on appointees, and getting the president's team in place, particularly Gina Haspel, who we believe should be confirmed as the next CIA director. This is an individual who's had over three decades of exemplary service and experience with the CIA, and we hope that the Senate takes it upon themselves to confirm her.
QUESTION: Besides the CIA, is there another issue? It's not solely to talk about (inaudible)
SHAH: It's to talk about the administration's agenda.
QUESTION: Thanks, Raj. The Trump organization...
SHAH: I'll get to you next.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SHAH: All right. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. The Trump organization is involved in a project in Indonesia building hotels, golf course residences. It's getting up to $500 million in backing from the Chinese government. Can you tell -- or, you know, explain the administration's perspective on, A) how this would violate the emoluments clause, and B) how it wouldn't violate the president's own promise that his private organization would not be getting involved in new foreign deals while he was president?
SHAH: I'll have to refer you to the Trump organization.
QUESTION: No, but I mean, the Trump organization can't speak on behalf of the president, as the president -- the head of the federal government, the one who is -- who's responsible, and who needs to assure the American people (inaudible) that responsibility.
SHAH: And -- and you're asking -- you're asking about a private organization's dealings that may have to do with a foreign government. That's not something that I can speak to.
QUESTION: A couple things. I need some information -- we all need more information about the conversation that the president had by phone with James Shaw (ph). Why wasn't it here at the White House? And also, what about prison reform? If you could give us a little bit more about prison reform. We understand that's working its way, and there's a big push from the White House. And also, on -- on Sadler, where does decency and morality come in -- into play on -- in the workplace? I mean, she still has a job. She made that statement about an American hero. No matter what the political feelings are about him, he was broken and bruised overseas for the freedoms of this country. And to say those things, I mean...
SHAH: Again, that's an internal matter, and has been addressed internally.
QUESTION: OK, OK.
SHAH: You mentioned prison reform. We're pleased to see last week, the House markup with a pretty broad bipartisan vote, prison reform legislation that the White House is supportive of that in particular, Jared Kushner has been very involved with. You know, we believe that, you know, that that legislation can help reduce costs at prisons, and improve quality. We hope to see it, you know, looked at at the House floor, and then eventually pass the Senate.
And with respect to -- with respect to James Shaw, you know, it -- it was -- it was a conversation that the president asked to -- to have, and...
QUESTION: Why not here at the White House? Why -- why not, I mean, he's saluting heroes.
SHAH: I -- I -- Honestly, I don't know if he -- if he was invited. I -- I -- I just honesty don't have more for you on that.